Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Notes

Here is an interesting take on the Star Wars movies from Slate. Don't forget to read the comments at the end of the article.

I watched The Legend of Zorro Monday night. It was bad. Real bad. Like the first one, only stupid. It had a couple redeeming parts, but Catherine Zeta-Jones's breasts can only carry a movie so far. With all the movies I want to see playing right now (Jarhead, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, The Squid And The Whale, Shopgirl), we've got nothing but crap at my theatre. Gonna watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang this Monday, hopefully that'll be better.

Got some more stuff in my survey of the post-1997 music scene. The last two White Stripes albums I like quite a bit. At this point I prefer the latest one though. But I've always liked albums that mix up genres. The Flaming Lips' album The Soft BUlletin is very good, if not as immediately catchy as Yoshimi was. Slanted And Enchanted by Pavement and Stephen Malkmus's Face The Truth I'm still working on. I took a long time to warm up to Pavement's Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, but eventually did. We'll see if that works with these other two. Finally, I got the latest My Morning Jacket album, Z, after the rave reviews Cameron Crowe gave them in various interviews promoting Elizabethtown (they have a song on the soundtrack). After only a couple listens, I dig it, especially the second half in which the songs grow about twice as long.

I also want to plug the website some guys I work with have set-up. is fancier, funnier and much better written than this blog is.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Movies Of The Year: 1993

1993 was a great year for movies. I count 77 films from that year that I've seen, which is significantly more than any year thus far. There's great quality too as the top 30 or so are all very good and I'd say the top 60 or so are all worth watching. It's also a big year for Jet Li, whose films manage to appear on this list 6 times. Numbers 29 and 26 tie for the First Annual Crying Game Award for the rankings most likely to get the wife to kick me out of the house.

77. Made In America
76. The Firm
75. National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1
74. Sliver
73. The Pelican Brief
72. Another Stakeout
71. Posse
70. Mrs. Doubtfire
69. Three Of Hearts
69. The Program
68. The Advocate
67. Wayne's World 2
66. Manhattan Murder Mystery
65. Coneheads
64. Judgement Night
63. Indecent Proposal
62. The Man Without A Face
61. Sleepless In Seattle
60. Dave
58. The Legend Of Fong Sai-yuk II
57. Point Of No Return
56. Grumpy Old Men
55. Once Upon A Time In China III
54. Cool Runnings
53. Hot Shots Part Deux
52. The Thing Called Love
51. Robin Hood: Men In Tights
50. Cliffhanger
48. The Piano
47. CB4
46. Faraway, So Close!
45. The Last Action Hero
44. What's Eating Gilbert Grape
43. The Trial
42. Demolition Man
41. Malice
40. Rudy
39. Latcho Drom
39. Addams Family Values
38. Last Hero In China
37. Little Buddha
36. The House Of The Spirits
35. Much Ado About Nothing
34. Mad Dog And Glory
33. Ninja Scroll
32. Falling Down
31. This Boy's Life
30. Carlito's Way
29. Philadelphia
28. The War Room
27. The Nightmare Before Christmas
26. The Wedding Banquet
25. Kung Fu Cult Master (Lord Of the Wu Tang)
24. Short Cuts
23. Benny & Joon
22. The Remains Of The Day
21. Gettysburg
20. And The Band Played On
19. The Fugitive
18. The Age Of Innocence
17. Shadowlands
16. In The Line Of Fire

15. The Tai Chi Master - Jet Li stars in this kung fu film about two guys who get kicked out of their Temple. One of them goes off and joins the evil government. The other joins MIchelle Yeoh and a group of revolutionaries. It's a formulaic Jet Li film, all the ones from this period are essentially the same, but it doesn't matter. Yuen Woo Ping, the guy who's directed just about every cool action sequence from the last decade (Kill Bill, The Matrix, etc), is the director and he blends the action and the obligatory slapstick comedy very well. Released in the US under the idiotic title "Twin Warriors" attempting to cash in on Michelle Yeoh's fame after Crouching Tiger. She doesn't have a large part, certainly not large enough to be in the title, but she is great when she's on screen.

14. Juraissic Park - The first of two Steven Spielberg films on the list this year, I bet you can guess what the other is. Somehow I managed to not see this the summer it came out. I have no idea what happened, but I didn't see it until the following winter when it was either rereleased or played the local discount theatre. It's an action movie, and a very good one. Frankly, I hate the kids. But all the adults are great. Oh yeah, there's some cool special effects too.

13. So, I Married An Axe Murderer - In the wake of the huge success of Wayne's World, Mike Myers was basically able to make any movie he wanted. He made this, it bombed and he basically disappeared for four years. It's a very funny romantic comedy about a spoken word poet who thinks his girlfriend might be a serial killer. Nancy Travis, who's terrific, as she was in Three Men And A Little Lady, plays the girlfriend. Amanda Plummer, Anthony LaPaglia, Brenda Fricker, Steven Wright, Phil Hartman, Charles Grodin, Debi Mazar and Alan Arkin also star.

12. A Perfect World - Clint Eastwood decided to follow up the destruction of the western genre with something even more remarkable: getting good acting out of Kevin Costner. Costner plays an escaped convict who kidnaps a little kid and takes him on the run with him. Eastwood plays the US Marshal tracking him down. It's a coming of age story, both for the kid and the kidnapper. Costner really is very good. Really, I'm not kidding. Also stars Laura Dern and Bradley Whitford.

11. Army Of Darkness - The culmination of Sam Raini's Evil Dead trilogy sees our hero Ash (the legendary Bruce Campbell) thrown back to 1300 AD where he must defeat the forces of evil and get back to his own time. One-armed with a shotgun, a chainsaw and a vast array of clever one-liners, he bravely joins a medieval kingdom in its fight against the undead. With Embeth Davidtz, who also stars in this year's #1 film. And Bridget Fonda has a cameo. Hail to the king, baby.

10. In The Name Of The Father - Daniel Day-Lewis is outstanding once again as a member of the Guildfor Four, people who were wrongfully imprisoned for an IRA bombing. Pete Posthlewaite plays his father who's imprisoned as well. Emma Thompson plays the lawyer who eventually gets them out. Directed by Jim Sheridan, who also did My Left Foot, The Boxer, The Field, In America and. . . the 50 Cent epic Get Rich Or Die Tryin'?

9. Groundhog Day - Yeah, it's better in theory than it is when watching it, but it's still a very good movie. It's not especially profound, at least not as much as director Harold Ramis seems to think it is. Bill Murray plays a grumpy weatherman who's forced to live one day over and over again until he becomes a good person. Then he gets Andie McDowell and February 3rd. Also stars Brian Doyle-Murray, Stephen Tobolowsky, Willie Garson and Chris Elliott. Pop Buddhism.

8. The Legend Of Fong Sai-yuk - My personal favorite kung fu movie stars Jet Li as a Cantonese kung fu expert who tries to win the hand of the local Manchu official's daughter while helping the Red Lotus Society rebel against the evil Manchu Emperor. Directed by Corey Yuen, who also directed The Transporter. The slapstick and humor is alright. If you've never seen a Hong Kong martial arts comedy, this is a good place to start. But it's the fight scenes, of course, that are the main attraction. There's one that totally amazed me when I saw and made me want to watch every Jet Li movie I could get my hands on, which I proceeded to do. Released in the US under the very informative title "The Legend".

7. Menace II Society - By far the best thing to come out of the 'gangsta' genre of film and music is this debut film by the Hughes Brothers (who are exactly 4 years older than me). Much more effective than John Singleton's Boyz In the Hood because the characters actually feel like real people instead of representatives of theoretical types. Tyrin Turner stars as a drug dealer trying to decide if he cares enough to go straight and move to Atlanta with Jada Pinkett. Larenz Tate is amazing as his psychotic best friend O-Dogg. Samuel L. Jackson and Khandi Alexander also star, along with Charles S. Dutton in the only truly preachy scene in the film, one which is mercifully short. Do you care if you live or die?

6. Dazed And Confused - Richard Linklater's film about the last day of school in a small Texas town in 1976. I was born that year, so the film doesn't have a real nostalgia grip on me. Instead, I like it because it's simply a great movie. It's the kind of film Robert Altman wanted Short Cuts to be, but was too old and 'serious' to realize it. You get to know about a dozen distinct characters throughout the film, all of which are unique and interesting. The cast certainly helps: Mathew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Jason London, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, and Adam Goldberg all appear, though some less often than others. I love movies that convey a real sense of time and place, and Dazed and Confused does that as well as any movie I've ever seen.

5. Six Degrees Of Seperation - Nobody thought Will Smith could act, you see. He was still known almost exclusively as the Fresh Prince, both the rapper and sitcom star. Then he blew everyone (well, everyone who saw it) away in this film as a street hustler who worms his way into the upper class Manhattan lives of Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing with his interesting interpretation of The Catcher In The Rye and offers to appear in Sidney Poitier's film version of Cats. Seems Anthony Michael Hall picked him up in Boston and taught him all the inner secrets of and how to blend in with the Elites. The story is told as a series of anecdotes that Sutherland and Channing relate at parties. It's about any number of things, depending on how you look at it, but mostly, it's about phonies.

4. Searching For Bobby Fischer - May be the best sports movie ever, even though chess isn't really a sport. It's about competitiveness and obsession and art and life and everything else that makes sports great. Based on a true story, it's the story of kid chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin and how he learns to be a champion player without losing his soul. As a counterpoint, throughout the film Josh tells the story of Bobby Fischer, the crazy chess genius. Max Pomeranc is terrific as Josh, but the adults are some pretty good actors themselves: Ben Kingsley as his traditional-style teacher, Laurence Fishburne as the chess hustler he hangs out with in the park, Joe Mantegna and Joan Allen as his parents. Tony Shaloub, Laura Linney, William H. Macy, Dan Hedaya and David Paymer also have small roles. One of only three films directed by Steven Zaillian, the guy who wrote The Falcon and the Snowman, Awakenings, A Civil Action, Gangs Of New York and this year's #1 film.

3. True Romance - The best film ever directed by someone with the last name of "Scott"? Perhaps. The script is by Quentin Tarantino (apparently he's very happy with this film, unlike Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers). Director Tony Scott (Top Gun) captures exactly what you imagine Tarantino was going for when he wrote it. A Quentin-esque Christian Slater (he works at a comic book shop and goes to a Sonny Chiba triple feature on his birthday) meets a beautiful hooker with a heart of gold who falls in love with him. They get married right away and when he goes to get her belongings from her pimp he accidentally ends up with a suitcase full of cocaine. So, they set off for Hollywood to sell the coke and live happily ever after. It's a movie geek's dream of a movie. Maybe the best cast ever features Slater, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Pitt, MIchael Rappaport, James Gandolfini, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Bronson Pinchot, Jack Black (in a deleted scene), Saul Rubinek, Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken.

2. Three Colors: Blue - The first part of Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy loosely based on the French Flag (liberty, equality, fraternity). This one stars Juliette Binoche as a famous composer's wife whose husband and daughter are killed in a car accident which she survives. The movie's about how she deals with this newfound freedom. She tries a variety of things, mostly hiding from people and the world, but eventually is brought back to life by music, which she had actually been secretly writing for her husband for years. It's the most difficult of the Three Colors films: not as fun and entertaining as White; not as clever as Red. But it's my favorite, probably because it's the first art movie I really worked to understand (not that I've come near to plumbing all it's depths). Juliette Binoche is the best of the three star actresses too, it isn't really close. Between this, Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf and The English Patient, she might be my pick as the best actress of the early 90s.

1. Schindler's List - The obvious pick, but I almost didn't rank it this high. The thing is, I think there are legitimate concerns that it trivializes the Holocaust. Not the story itself (although it does fall victim, somewhat, to Mississippi Burning Syndrome: a movie about the Holocaust in which the hero is a Nazi), but just the fact of making a movie about the Holocaust trivializes it. Especially one as terrifically well-made as this one. The argument can be made in a number of ways. First, any film about the Holocaust necessarily trivializes it. The Holocaust is the ultimate in evil. The idea of spending millions of dollars to film a story about it, then have people pay 20 bucks a piece to sit in a theatre and munch Milk Duds and popcorn while watching people get sent to gas chambers is just plain sick. Second, you can paraphrase Truffaut's famous argument that it's impossible to make an anti-war film because cinema inevitably makes glamourous anything it shows. This is the formulation I find most persuasive because it matches best my own reaction to the film. I saw it three times in the theatre, and while I was of course horrified by the events it depicts, the reason I kept going to see it was the technique. The terrific acting by Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and especially Ralph Fiennes. The beautiful black and white cinematography with surprising and powerful bursts of color. The tour de force action sequence that the liquidation of the ghetto turns into (the music in this sequence is phenomenal). And most memorable, for me, the sound effects. Yup, the sound. I love the opening scene, the rustle of silk as Liam Neeson ties his tie, the way the sound is so clear you can almost feel it on your own shirt when Liam Neeson sticks his swastika pin in his jacket. Schindler's List is a film about the worst evil that humans can do, but it's so well-made, such a great work of art, that you can't help but enjoy it. There is something fundamentally wrong about that. But I don't know what to do about it; I'm not sure if it's Spielberg's fault, my fault, or the fault of everyone who has ever watched a movie about something horrific. But since this is a list about film first and foremost, I can't rightly punish Spielberg's film for a failing that I, and perhaps film in general, share. So it goes at the top of the list as possibly the best film of my lifetime.

Despite the ridiculous number of films I've seen from this year, there's still a bunch of movies I really need to see. Definitely the best year for movies so far. It would really surprise me if another matches it. The Unseen:

Iron Monkey
Farewell, My Concubine
32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
The Visitors
Son In Law
Body Of Evidence
The Crush
Untamed Heart
Swing Kids
The Vanishing
Free Willy
The Joy Luck Club
The Sandlot
Super Mario Bros.
Rising Sun
A Bronx Tale
Poetic Justice
The Scent Of Green Papaya
Knight Moves
Who's The Man?
Boxing Helena
Heaven & Earth
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Treachery Of IMDB

Speaking of IMDB not listing all the relevant movies, Orlando came out in 1992, but I couldn't find it when making the list. It's a great movie, an adaptation of a Virginia Woolf story of an Elizabethan-era boy who refuses to grow old and turns into a woman after 250 years or so. Tilda Swinton is brilliant in the lead role. I'd rank it at #9 in 1992, right between Singles and Wayne's World.

And while I'm at it, I'd rate Sixteen Candles at #19 in 1984, in between Gremlins and Top Secret.

These changes are all added to The Big List the link to which can always be found on the sidebar.

There are also a number of Hong Kong movies I need to rank: City On Fire, The Legend Of Fong Sai-yuk, Tai Chi Master, Kung Fu Cult Master, etc.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Movies Of The Year: 1992

A new high this year, as I've seen 60 movies from 1992. For the record, I'm using IMDB's list of the top 100 movies of the year by total votes to come up with the titles, no way would I remember all of these. This presents two difficulties. First, there are undoubtedly movies outside the top 100 vote getters that I have seen and/or are very good. Browsing around in other sections of 1992, for example, I found Simple Men and Indochine, one of which I've seen and is very good, the other I haven't but have heard good things about it. Since I'm not going to carefully comb the 6000+ movie lists looking for each and every movie released that year, these lists are going to only be approximate. So, when I say I've seen 60 movies from 1992, really I've seen at least 60 movies from 1992.

The second problem is that I'm going by the years that IMDB assigns to various films. For example, IMDB says Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf is a 1991 film, even though it wasn't released theatrically until 1999. Or Zhang Yimou's Hero, which was released in the US in 2004, counts as a 2002 film on IMDB. This means that my lists won't be directly comparable to the various awards for those years, or many critics end of the year Best Of lists, all of which use their own criteria for determining when a film came out. Frankly, it's just easier to use IMDB as the definitive authority on this matter. So, on to the list:

60. The Distinguished Gentlemen
59. Freejack
58. Death Becomes Her
57. Hero
56. Shining Through
55. Kuffs
54. Unlawful Entry
53. Passenger 57
52. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
51. Toys
50. Housesitter
49. Single White Female
48. Patriot Games
47. Of Mice And Men
46. Jennifer 8
45. Boomerang
44. Honeymoon In Vegas
43. Candyman
42. Lethal Weapon 3
41. The Cutting Edge
40. Scent Of A Woman
39. Mr. Saturday Night
38. Shadows And Fog
37. Noises Off
36. Peter's Friends
35. My Cousin Vinny
34. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
33. Bad Lieutenant
32. Basic Instinct
31. Encino Man
30. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
29. A League Of Their Own
28. Supercop
27. Chaplin
26. A Midnight Clear
25. Aladdin
24. Alien 3
23. Batman Returns
22. Far And Away
21. Howards End
20. White Men Can't Jump
19. Simple Men
18. Husbands And Wives
17. The Crying Game
16. El Mariachi

15. Malcolm X - Mostly remembered nowadays for Denzel Washington's outstanding performance in the lead role, this deserves to be ranked with the best biopics of the last couple decades. Unfairly labeled, along with Spike Lee's earlier film Do The Right Thing (and Lee and Malcolm X himself) as being anti-white, those who do so have clearly failed to watch the film or read the source material, Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The compelling thing about Malcolm X is not the fire and brimstone "chickens come home to roost: angry guy speeches, it's the fact that he rejected all of that after realizing how corrupt and fake it really was. And then got killed for it.

14. Bram Stoker's Dracula - A big, colorful, overthetop, bloody, messy masterpiece of over-indulgence. One of the all-time worst Keanu Reeves performances ("It tis the man himself!"). Fantastic scenery-chewing from Tom Waits, Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Richard E. Grant and Cary Elwes. You can even see Monica Bellucci as one of the devil-women that tortures poor Keanu.

13. Strictly Ballroom - OK, I know that as a straight man, I'm supposed to hate this movie about a renegade ballroom dancer who refuses to play by 'their' rules. But I can't help it, I love it and the other two Baz Luhrmann movies (Romeo and Juliet and Mulin Rouge). I like movies that, in Francois Truffaut's phrase, express "the joy of making cinema". That's the only thing Luhrmann is interested in doing. One of the sweatiest movies of all-time?

12. Sneakers - Often mentioned as an overlooked movie, which raises the question of whether a movie can be overlooked if everyone thinks it's overlooked. The problem is that while it's extremely well made and fun to watch, nothing really blows you away about it. It's just a perfect little movie, which is different from being a perfect movie. The great cast includes Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier, River Phoenix, Dan Ackroyd, Mary McDonnell, David Strathairn, Donal Logue, Stephen Tobolowsky, and James Earl Jones. Written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson, who also wrote and directed Field of Dreams.

11. Red Rock West - Quentin Tarantino meets Luis Buñuel as Nicholas Cage plays a guy who just can't get out of town. he shows up in a small Wyoming town looking for a job, gets mistaken by the sherriff for a hitman he had hired to kill his wife and soon the sherriff, the wife and the real hitman are all out to get him. Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle and JT Walsh co-star. Ripped off by Oliver Stone for U-Turn, a much inferior film.

10. Bob Roberts - The first of two Tim Robbins films in this year's top ten is also his directorial debut. Robbins plays a folk-singing fascist running for senator against Gore Vidal in this horrifying prescient pseudo-documentary. Giancarlo Esposito plays the liberal media reporter trying to bring him down. The large cast includes Alan Rickman, Susan Sarandon, James Spader, David Strathairn, Helen Hunt, Peter Galagher, Fred Ward, Jack Black, Fisher Stevens, Bob Balaban, Jeremy Piven and John Cusak. Much of the film is modeled after the great Dylan documentary Don't Look Back, especially Jack Black's scene.

9. Wayne's World - I'll admit I haven't seen this in years, so I don't really know how well it aged, but I don't imagine there'd be any problems. Might be my generation's Animal House. I saw my first Wayne's World skit when I first saw Saturday Night Live in a hotel room in Seattle in 1989. Fine Young Cannibals was the musical guest and I believe Wayne Gretzky was the host. Earlier that day, I'd seen my first Mariners game, featuring rookie outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. Director Penelope Spheeris went on to direct The Beverly Hillbillies, The Little Rascals and Black Sheep.

8. Singles - Speaking of Gen X classics. . . . I actually watched this again just a couple months ago and can confirm that it's lost nothing over time. I recently called it the best Cameron Crowe movie ever and I stand by that. While it doesn't have any scene as great as certain scenes in Almost Famous, Say Anything or Vanilla Sky, it's the only one without a serious flaw or two. Plus, it taught me to always say 'Gesundheit" when someone sneezes so that Bridget Fonda will fall in love with me.

7. The Player - Might be my favorite Robert Altman movie. Tim Robbins plays a movie producer who kills a writer (Vincent D'Onofrio) he thinks is stalking him, Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovitt are the cops trying to hunt him down, Peter Gallagher's trying to steal his job, he's trying to sign the Coen Brothers to a long-term contract while rewriting Richard E. Grant's script into a movie for Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts and he's fallen in love with the dead guy's Icelandic girlfriend (Greta Scacchi). Famous for the number of cameos as apparently everyone in Hollywood shows up at one time or another.

6. A Few Good Men - I'm a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. I think that what ABC did to Sports Night is a crime. I've seen every episode of The West Wing (well, except for this season's premiere). I even liked Malice. This is a great movie, extremely well-written. But every time some says they're going to "make an argument" my skin crawls. And they do say it. A lot. So, Mr. Sorkin, some friendly advice: people argue, they don't make arguments. The passive voice sucks.

5. Hard-Boiled - The best pure action movie of all-time. At least for the last hour or so. Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung star as two cops trying to take down a gang of gun dealers. Chow's the cop on the outside, Leung's undercover, though Chow doesn't figure that out til halfway through the movie. Both actors, two of my favorites, are outstanding. the final 45 minutes of the film is famously a single action sequence as the cops and bad guys shoot up a hospital. This is John Woo's most effective film, both visually and in terms of the limited thematic interests Woo has (namely the similarities between good guys and bad, which he also explores in The Killer and Face/Off). IMDB says the Chinese title literally translates as "Hot-Handed God Of Cops".

4. Glengarry Glen Ross - Perhaps the most quotable movie of all-time. Vicious dark comedy and back-biting among real estate salesmen. Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jonathon Pryce and Alec Baldwin are pretty much the entire cast. James Foley directs David Mamet's script. Foley had previously directed Who's That Girl? and the video for "Papa Don't Preach". Favorite lines: "You see this watch? This watch cost more than your car." "Coffee is for closers." "Fuck you. That's my name. You know why, mister? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. That's my name." "Who ever told you that you could work with men?. . . . You company man."

3. Last Of The Mohicans - An unjustly forgotten classic. MIchael Mann took James Fenimore Cooper's by all accounts extremely boring novel and turned it into a beautiful romantic action drama. If the movie came out now instead of in 1992, it'd get a lot more critical praise than it has, now that Mann's distinguished himself with Heat and The Insider and is no longer known only as the guy who created Miami Vice. Daniel Day-Lewis is great as Nathaniel, the many-named hero of Cooper's novels. Russell Means, Madeline Stowe and especially Wes Studi are outstanding as well. One of the best looking movies of all-time. The score's really good as well. Apparently the only available DVD release is also the Director's Cut, which I haven't seen. But soon, I will.

2. Reservoir Dogs - Quentin Tarantino's debut film is justly praised as a step-forward in the pulp movie genre. It's most direct ancestor is probably Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets, at least in dialogue and attitude. It, of course, borrows plot elements from a whole host of films, from John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle to Ringo Lam's City On Fire. But it's Tarantino's unique combination of those influences that makes this film great. Tarantino is far from the most original director out there, his genius is for synthesis instead. And dialogue. Not just the famous pop culture discussions, but every line in the film has a unique rhythm that fits just perfectly. He's the only contemporary writer I can think of in Mamet's class as far as that kind of words for the sake of words dialogue.

1. Unforgiven - The western to end all westerns. Clint Eastwood's masterpiece strips the western genre down to it's essence and examines the brutal and senseless nature of the violence at its core. It's been argued that there is nowhere else for the genre to go after Unforgiven. We had classical westerns (Stagecoach, Red River, Silverado) and there are revisionist Westerns (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Dances With Wolves) and we had classical westerns told in a revisionist style (the spaghetti westerns). Unforgiven is the deconstruction of the western. Its a dead end. Much like Touch Of Evil signaled the end of film noir. All that we can have now are neo-classical or neo-revisionist westerns. There is no new terrain to explore, all the genre has to say has been said. I don't know how much I buy that argument, in particular I wonder how the HBO series Deadwood fits into the sceme. It seems to accept the brutal senselessness of Unforgiven yet still demonstrates the community building necessity that permeates both classical and revisionist westerns. Regardless of it's genre implications, it's a great movie. One of the most depressing films that I actually like.

Despite seeing so many movies this year, there are still some with great reputations that I've managed to miss. And a lot of really bad ones too. The Unseen:

The Mambo Kings
Lorenzo's Oil
Romper Stomper
Dead Alive
Shakes The Clown
Porco Rosso
Man Bites Dog
Belle Epoque
Poison Ivy
Radio Flyer
Leap Of Faith
Captain Ron
Memoirs Of An Invisible Man

Honey, I Blew Up The Kid
School Ties
Like Water For Chocolate
Cool World
Medicine Man
The Mighty Ducks
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
The Lawnmower Man
Universal Soldier
Forever Young
A River Runs Through It
Under Siege
Sister Act
The Bodyguard
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Un Coeur En Hiver
Enchanted April